How to Make Money Writing & Selling eBooks
Technology has shaped the way we communicate, do our shopping, consume media, and read books. Reading habits have shifted from hard copy books to a different format – eBooks.
Although eBooks have yet to overturn the printed book market with at least 20% of book readers in the U.S. stating they read more eBooks than hard copy books, the eBook industry is showing healthy projections.
In the last few years, my own eBook reading numbers have risen significantly. I used to read 4 to 5 eBooks per year, this year alone I read 11 eBooks and counting.
According to Statista, eBook sales are projected to generate nearly 20 billion US dollars in revenue in 2018 and to account for a quarter of global book sales.
The positive reflection of eBook consumption on revenue generation puts eBook self-publishing on a nearly equal footing with traditional publishing.
If you’re planning on launching a book, you may want to explore the eBook publishing route, which may be both easier to navigate and may even end up being more profitable for you.
This article is a foray into the world of eBook publishing, specifically a 101 on how to make money writing and selling eBooks today.
eBooks – Are They Still Books?
If you take the definition of a book from any dictionary, you’ll come across the words “printed work” or other grouping of words that allude to the existence of a written work in hard copy or tangible format.
An eBook, on the other hand, is not present in any tangible format, only in digital format. Yet, as you will see in this article, this is hardly a drawback.
What eBooks lack in tangibility, they make up for in other ways:
- Delivery of eBooks is instant trough downloading;
- They’re available on electronic devices, which allows the storage and carrying of multiple copies at once;
- They showcase better subject variety by not being limited to what a publisher may release.
Even though many prefer reading hard copy books that come with beautifully designed covers and that freshly printed book smell, story or content is what most readers look for in books, and in this respect, the eBook reading experience is in no way less satisfactory than that of a printed book.
In fact, having a book available with you on a smart device that fits nicely in a small bag may even determine people to read more since it’s much more convenient than carrying heavy books around.
Publishing a book in digital format also eliminates many of the hurdles and red tape involved in traditional book publishing including dealing with editors, publishers, printing, storage and delivery.
With eBook publishing, the whole process is faster and more straightforward.
In the self-publishing sector, you get to keep tabs on everything and carry out everything yourself – the writing, the marketing, the selling.
But that also means you’ll get to be keeping all the profits yourself, which is often one of the main reasons writers turn to eBook publishing instead of following the traditional route.
Many authors prefer to go on this route where they have complete control over the entire process even if that means relying entirely on themselves when it comes to giving exposure to their work.
The idea of self-publishing is not entirely new, many classic titles by authors like Walt Whitman, James Joyce, and Virginia Wolf were originally self-published.
Today, the best-selling self-published authors include Adam Croft, whose self-published book Her Last Tomorrow sold over 150,000 units in 2016, selling nearly £1m worth of books, mainly through Kindle.
Another Amazon self-publishing author is Amanda Hocking, who generated over $2 million from selling her books.
If you’re aspiring to become a self-published author on Amazon, let me walk you through the steps you need to take to make money from selling eBooks.
Selling Your Work – Where to Sell eBooks?
As an eBook writer, there are two main avenues you can explore to sell your books:
- Selling eBooks directly on your site or blog, or
- Using a third-party platform like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
Let’s analyze the benefits and potential drawbacks of each:
Selling eBooks Directly on Your Website
If you have a personal website, you can easily sell your eBook directly online. All you need is to set up a shopping cart or integrate PayPal payment and you’re ready to go.
After a reader makes a payment, they can instantly download the electronic format of your book and start reading it on their eBook reader.
Once everything is set up, this process is pretty much automated, and it can become a reliable source of passive income.
You’ve got nothing else left to do than to promote your eBook and keep an eye on your website to make sure everything is running smoothly.
The benefits of this option are:
- You oversee and control the entire process from getting your book written to seeing it reach customers;
- You charge the price you want and keep all profits;
- You get all your customers’ information, which you can use to promote other works later and get feedback on your work.
The strength of this option is also one of its drawbacks. The task of marketing your book and getting the word out befalls on you, so your book is going to be only as successful as many people you can reach and convince to buy your book.
Selling eBooks with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing
Amazon’s reach of around 89 million active American eBook readers is the biggest advantage of selling your eBook through Kindle Direct Publishing.
The process is simple:
- Use your Amazon account to sign in to KDP or create a new account;
- Read KDP’s content and quality guidelines;
- Navigate to Bookshelf and click + Kindle eBook in the Create a New Title section;
- Enter the information for each section (title, description, keywords, upload manuscript and cover, set pricing, etc.);
- Publish your Kindle eBook.
Publishing your eBook on KDP is free, and it only takes 24 to 48 hours for your eBook to be available worldwide. You can make changes to your eBook any time.
You’ll earn up to 70% in royalties, you’ll get to keep control of your rights and set your own list prices.
The only setback with KDP is that Amazon charges a commission for selling your books on their platform but having the kind of reach Amazon has certainly makes up for this drawback.
Which Option is Best?
Publishing your eBook shouldn’t be an either-or decision. You can do both — publish the eBook on your own website, then publish it on Amazon too to get the best of each worlds.
When you publish the book on your website, you can keep the entire amount of what you charge, but you can’t compete with Amazon’s reach.
Therefore, I recommend taking advantage of both publishing avenues.
Writing Your eBook
Writing your eBook or any book for that matter takes a lot of discipline, time and research.
Sometimes, however, the process can be greatly simplified, other times you’ll have to start from scratch.
Here are some ways you can write your own eBook:
Repurposing Your Blog
If you’re already monetizing a blog, restructuring and editing content and expanding it is one way to put together content for an eBook.
If your blog has thousands of articles that are not grouped together according to a theme, you can repurpose that content around a common theme and release it as an eBook.
Publishing Original Content
Publishing original content – whether fictional or non-fictional – is another way to write an eBook. It’s probably the most difficult way to put together an eBook since you’re starting from scratch.
Most successful writers consider that having a writing schedule and sitting down every day to write is a crucial aspect to making sure that they finish writing a book. So, break down your book to small daily writing goals and make sure you respect your writing schedule every day.
Repurposing Public Domain Works
If you’re hungry for inspiration, public domain books can be a fountain of inspiration. Works no longer protected by copyright can be republished and repurposed.
American novelist Seth Grahame-Smith did exactly that with his book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that was published in 2009. He took a public domain work (Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice) and put a zombie theme twist on it. The book was later turned into a movie with the same title.
Project Gutenberg is a database of over 57,000 titles for which copyright has expired. The books are in eBook format, so you can download and read them immediately. Give it a try, who knows, maybe you’ll find a great classic that you can put a modern spin on and bank on its popularity.
Hiring a Ghost Writer
You can also hire someone else to write a book for you or help you write a few chapters of your book.
Ghost writers get paid for the writing they do, but the author takes the credit for all the original work, including the parts written by the ghost writer.
Ghost writers are professional freelance writers and they may be given credit by some authors by listing their name as an “editor” or somewhere in the acknowledgements.
These are the many ways you can put out an eBook, but once you’re finished writing a book, the next step is to market it, so it reaches audiences. This can be another tough cookie to crack.
Getting Your eBook to Audiences – How to Market It?
When an author goes on the traditional publishing route, the publishing house takes care of the marketing strategy for the book. When you’re self-publishing, you’re the one in charge of marketing.
When it comes to marketing, I always recommend a multi-platform approach:
Hit Up Social Media
A sure-fire way to create more buzz around your book is to leverage your social media contacts on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
Encourage your friends and contacts to spread the word about your book, create giveaway contest, allow people to read a chapter of your book for free, and post content related to your book.
The more buzz you manage to generate around your eBook, the better. Make sure you post a link where readers can go and purchase your book.
Promote it on Your Blog or in Forums
You can further promote your book on your blog or by being active in forums related to the topic of your book.
If you have subscribers to your blog, promote your book to them as well, send them a free chapter of your book or exclusive content.
Paid Ads on Amazon
If you’re selling your eBook on Amazon, you can use paid ads to market your book to a specific audience based on searched keywords or related products.
If you’ve written a truly good book, even a little publicity can cause a ripple effect that will spread the word about your work and bring in big sales numbers.
Tips for a Successful eBook
Generating passive income from eBook sales is not rocket science, but it’s not a walk in the park either. You must be willing to dedicate time and effort, and not just to writing it, but also to putting out the word about it.
To make sure your self-published eBook is successful and generates sales, follow these important tips:
Make a Plan and Stick to It
While inspiration does strike sometimes, your book is not going to write itself while you wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is something fickle, discipline is what gets the job done.
Most writers find that allocating a time slot in their day to writing is the most efficient way to get a book finished. This holds true for screenwriting, novels, and non-fictional works as well.
Therefore, I advise you to create an outline for your book and sit down to write every day until you finish. Most people don’t finish a book they’ve started because they lack the discipline to sit down and write regularly.
A book I recommend you read is Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, which is a must-read for anyone looking to break into a creative profession and deals with the inner creative blocks that creative professionals face.
The second book I recommend on the topic of writing is Stephen King’s On Writing, which is an excellent incursion into the author’s own experiences with writing and his advice for aspiring writers.
Write What You Know
This or some variation of this (“Write the truth”) is a mantra that you’ll come across in nearly every book about writing.
Writing about things you are familiar with will lend your writing authenticity, so you can write with more confidence.
Of course, you can research topics that you’re unfamiliar with, but writing about something that you’re not passionate about just because you think it will sell, is not a good approach to writing.
Write in genres that you yourself are interested in and topics you’re passionate about, because that will translate into good writing.
Keep It Simple
Unless you’re writing a historical fiction book that would dictate you to create dialogue authentic to the time, there’s no point in putting out work that’s written in a complicated or pompous style.
Make sure your book is easy to read and to understand. Writing in a visually engaging and conversational style is the easiest way to keep your readers glued to your pages.
Proofread Your Work
It seems like a small or inconsequential thing, but if your work is full of typos and grammatical errors, you’re going to get bad reviews, perhaps even refunds.
Just because you’re self-publishing, it doesn’t mean you should skip proofreading.
Ask a writer friend or a professional proofreader to go over your book before you publish it.
Keep It Professional
You know those beautiful covers on hard copy books? And how they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover? I know I’m not alone in saying that I’ve made so many book purchases based on how beautiful the cover looked.
Just because you’re releasing an eBook, it shouldn’t mean that you don’t have to put an effort into making the title page look fancy and professional.
If you’re not good at designing covers and dealing with layout, ask a friend or a professional to help you.
Keeping things professional and well-designed will make sure people will take your book seriously and won’t brush it off as amateurish.
Publishing an eBook isn’t all that different from publishing a hard copy book, except the process can be greatly simplified and you can take charge of every step of the way.
Selling eBooks on Amazon or other platforms can be a lucrative source of passive income if you’re ready to take on the challenges that may arise from deciding to self-publish.
Once you figure out the best ways to market your content and you build an established reader base, you can continue putting out great work and generating sales from your eBooks.Updated on: August 9, 2018